Customer service woes (part 2): make it as easy as Google.

A month ago, I blogged about my experience with my long-time bank.  Some recent customer service glitches in retail:

  • Was looking for an art book for a birthday gift, one that is apparently out of print.  I was *ahem* a little late for mail-order shopping, so I popped down to the AGO to see if they had it.  It was a Henry Moore tome, and I figured that they might have a copy given their large HM collection.  No luck.  I DM’d a local Toronto independent bookshop that I have corresponded with via Twitter in the past.  No response.  I then came across another local art and rare book shop on Queen E that had an online catalog and found that they had a copy, so I shot off an email asking if they could set it aside for me and that I’d pick it up within two days.  No response. I was downtown a couple of days later and decided to drop by said art-book store and sure enough…they had it set aside with my email tucked in the front cover (although it took them ten minutes to actually locate the book they’d “set aside”.)  Too bad they didn’t bother to respond to me in the first place, telling me that they had it.
  • I popped into a local branch of a small appliance retail and repair chain.  They had just opened in my neighborhood a few months ago and I had a couple of things I needed help with.  My robot vacuum’s battery was kaput so I took it in to ask if they could replace it.  I got a call back a week later saying that they were unable to get the part.  I picked it up, did a cursory Google search, found an online shop based in Montreal, ordered the battery on Thursday and it arrived on Monday.  It was a breeze to install and my baby is up and running.
  • At the same store, I asked for help replacing a couple of parts for my KitchenAid Stand Mixer (a thumb screw to hold attachments in place and a flat beater.)  They needed the model number so when I returned to pick up the robot, I left the model number and description of the two parts with the manager.  He called me back two days later and asked me to come in and show him the parts on a diagram.  I returned and the manager wasn’t there, and there was no record of my interaction with him. I had neglected to bring the model number of the machine with me so I couldn’t point out the parts I wanted.   I proposed that I just call back with the info and leave a deposit over the phone with a credit card.  No-can-do….no orders can be placed by phone.  Gah!  So once again, Google was my friend.  I found, was easily able to identify the pieces I needed and ordered them yesterday.  Last night, I got notification of shipment and they are out for delivery to me today.

I could go on.  While I would really like to support local businesses, I get frustrated when even the simplest things are forgotten or not allowed.  Returning emails.  Paying by phone. Keeping records of communication with customers. 

Some organizations manage to combine online and in-person customer service.  The Toronto Public Library is one.  They have a terrific system-wide online hold system and wonderful branch staff when you need to deal with a live person. Best Buy lets you shop and order online for pickup at a local store, which means less time waiting for live help.  You just drop by Customer Service and pay for the item that is ready and waiting for you. Chapters Indigo lets you search for items online and find out which stores in your areas have it in stock. You can also order items online from within their stores. My local used bookstore lets me bring my dog in when I browse and answers phone queries, setting aside books when they have what you’re looking for.  But as online businesses become more customer-centric, local operations are going to lose out if they don’t excel at customer service, including communication and ease of shopping.

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